At the oncology clinic, the charge nurse smiled as she hung up the phone. She had negotiated a patient's appointment with another department, and she was pleased with the outcome. Turning to me, she said, "You know, one of the things I love about oncology nursing is how it's taught me to problem-solve. I feel competent handling different things that come up."
I thought about her words while working on a piece for an art installation. I was sitting at the worktable in my studio, applying imitation gold metal leaf to empty glass bottles. I've never worked with metal leaf before. If you haven't, you should know it comes in sheets about the same thickness as a transparent bio-occlusive dressing -- the kind we oncology nurses use as dressings on a patient's port, minus the easy-to-handle paper edges. Metal leaf is so fragile, it tears if you breathe on it. This makes it almost impossible to handle. I possess excellent fine motor skills, yet working with it was challenging.
I like a challenge.
It was above 90°F in the studio, so I had a rotating fan running. This required coordinating the placement of the metal leaf with the blowing of the fan. If I got the timing wrong, the metal leaf would wrinkle and become unusable. Surprisingly, I wasn't concerned about the lack of time to scrape torn, wrinkled leaf off the bottles and redo them before the show, but I was glad I wasn't using real gold leaf (it's expensive). I'm brave, but I'm not stupid.
While cursing and placing the metal leaf, I mused over my relaxed attitude about the project. After years of managing infusion reactions, fighting anaphylaxis, and safely administering chemotherapy, I realize trying new things doesn't scare me.
Oncology nursing is complex, challenging, and stressful, but it has provided me with a wide range of skills and the confidence to expand my world.
Do your nursing skills cross over to your off-duty life? Which ones and how?